Column: ‘Harry Potter’ is a great read for young and young-at-heart
I have been very distracted lately. I spend a lot of time thinking about invisibility cloaks, exploding snaps and Diagon Alley.
While covering the school board meeting – when I’m supposed to be taking notes on test statistics and summer school enrollment figures – I am dreaming about winning the school Quiddich Cup with an amazing last-minute capture of the Snitch on my Nimbus 2000.
Many parents probably know I’m talking about Harry Potter. I, like many children, have read every book as fast as I can. I just finished the latest edition and I started all over with the first.
I have tried to determine why the books have captured the collective hearts of America’s youth (and the young-at-heart).
Harry Potter is a classic fairy tale with the theme of good over evil. The story reminds me of Star Wars. (Stick with me here.) An orphaned, average boy who lives with his aunt and uncle suddenly finds himself in a strange and magical situation.
Harry finds he is a wizard and goes off to Hogwarts school to learn how to control this magical “force” he has always held inside of him.
There is an older, wiser father figure who tries to protect and teach Harry. Harry has two sidekicks, a boy and a girl, who in the latest book seemed to be moving from a love/hate relationship to a love relationship. And there is, of course, the ultimate evil figure, who tries to kill Harry.
He takes the form of Voldemort, a wizard who went over to “The Dark Side” and is even called the Dark Lord by his followers. He isn’t Harry’s father, but he killed Harry’s father and mother and tried to kill Harry, leaving a scar on his forehead that connects them forever.
Readers, like many of the characters in the books, just want to see Harry succeed. He’s a truly good person and the books teach children selflessness and to help each other.
I get so frustrated with news reports of schools pulling the books off the shelves and of parents not allowing their children to read them. God forbid children should read. The books don’t teach witchcraft. The examples of witchcraft used in the book are gobbledygook words and, I’m sure, have no useful purpose. (Riddikulus! Waddiwasi! Lumos!)
Children may wish they are in History of Magic instead of government or Care of Magical Creatures instead of biology, but what the books do teach kids is to use their imaginations. You have to use your imagination to envision a Quiddich game, even though the descriptions are vivid; the stories are about a world completely different from ours.
I know that’s the fascination for me. Moving and talking paintings grace the walls of the magical castle where they live. Turrets and hallways sometimes are there, and sometimes not. Dragons and unicorns and centaurs live in the forest while gnomes live in the garden and elves work in the kitchen. Even the ceiling of the dining hall is charmed to mimic whatever the sky outside looks like. Everyone’s name seems to conjure an image of that person. Severus Snape. Gregory Goyle. Draco Malfoy. Cornelius Fudge.
If you have no idea what I was just talking about, you must read these books. I don’t care what age you are. I dare you not to finish the book in record time and immediately read the next one. You just won’t be able to help yourself. Maybe they are bewitched in that way.
(Merrie Leininger is a reporter for The Record-Courier. )